Digital Transformation of Government – Manila Bulletin
Former Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered all government agencies to use digital methods to disburse and collect payments with Executive Order No. 170 signed in May. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of government digital transformation. There is much more to include and consider when transforming a government.
This is precisely what is foreseen in the Full Digital Transformation Act of 2020 or Senate Bill (SB) No. 1793. Introduced by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian in 2020, it is “a law mandating the comprehensive digital transformation of all government agencies, agents and corporations, including local government units, by allocating funds for this purpose and to other purposes,” according to the Senate of the Philippines website. .
What is commendable in this bill is that it covers the entire field of digital transformation, that is to say the rationalization of “procedures by adopting the automation and digitization of government services » ; building government technology capabilities such as establishing data centers and cybersecurity facilities; harmonization of common data related to people, transport and multiple domains; the use of open source systems; investment in developing organizational capacity and staff skills; and most importantly, the creation of a Digital Transformation Department (DTD) in “every government agency, office, company, instrumentality and unit”.
A related bill, the Satellite Technologies for Internet Connectivity Act of 2021, introduced in June 2021 by the same senator, aims to encourage and promote “the use and development of satellite technologies for Internet connectivity”. Indeed, decent internet coverage and speed for the entire country is needed to ensure that government services are delivered digitally continuously, almost in real time. But that is already overshadowed by the previous administration’s decision in May 2022 that approved the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of SpaceX, to provide its satellite broadband to the archipelago.
With the re-election of Senator Gatchalian, there is still a chance that the Comprehensive Digital Transformation Act will move forward in the Senate. But most likely, with the changes in the chairmanship of the Senate committees, it will never see the light of day. We may need a new lawmaker in the upper house to champion the creation of digital transformation government policies.
Many countries and governments have recognized the opportunities and benefits brought by digital transformation. According to the 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “virtually all OECD member countries have put in place a digital government strategy that sets policy objectives for the digital transformation of the public sector”. Following the report, “whatever name is used to describe this document (e.g. strategy, program, action plan), or whether it is presented as a stand-alone document or included in broader public sector strategies ( eg, public administration, digital economy, information society), the critical point for the analysis of governance is that such policy documents exist”; and that “these documents set the vision and frame national/federal policy around digital government over a period of time.” A total of 29 OECD countries and 19 European Union countries participated in this study.
The digital transformation of government can bring clear benefits to a nation and its citizens. The OECD has identified them, such as increasing productivity and employment, increasing the efficiency of service delivery and holding government agencies, industries and citizens accountable to them. do more.
While conceptually an achievable vision, digital government transformation is not without its challenges. Some of those identified by the OECD are the digital divide between urban and rural areas, lack of standards in e-commerce, lack of digitally skilled workforce, lack of cybersecurity preparedness and lack of budgets and investments.
These obstacles and challenges include the finer details of executing a government digital transformation strategy. This may be why Senator Gatchalian did not prioritize Senate Bill 1793 during his previous term. If many businesses around the world are failing in their digital transformation efforts, what more can we say if it involves unwieldy government bureaucracy.
Additionally, the Philippines’ 2021 digital competitiveness ranking is 47.16, just behind Peru’s 47.23 and slightly above Colombia’s 45.45. For reference, the United States took first place at 100 and Malaysia scored 73.29. These rankings are based on the latest IMD World Digital Competitiveness report which “analyzes and ranks the ability of countries to adopt and explore digital technologies leading to a transformation of government practices, business models and society at large; digital competitiveness is assessed on the basis of three major criteria: knowledge, technology and future readiness. »
With the Philippines’ low digital readiness, executing a comprehensive government digital transformation strategy will be a pipe dream. That’s why, over the next six years of the new administration under President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., instead of a big digital transformation, a strategy I always promote to private organizations called “dual transformation.” is relatively easier to perform.
Dual Government Transformation is a strategic approach to repositioning today’s government bureaucracy to maximize its resilience, especially in these difficult economic times, while creating tomorrow’s new engine of economic growth.
Conceptually, if we plot this in the next six years, there will be two transformation streams – Transformation A, which finds new opportunities to address existing challenges, i.e. improve internet speeds and complement efforts to digital payment from previous administration; Transformation B, which is to create a powerful new growth engine for the future, such as full automation and interconnection of related agencies, i.e. Customs Bureau, Internal Revenue Bureau, the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Education.
In the next administration, other agencies and local government units can follow suit as part of a 10-year roadmap. Part of this roadmap is a methodical program to change mindsets and build the skills of government officials and employees, as well as invest in future-proof and standardizable technology assets.
The current administration and legislators must be deliberate and methodical in their approach to digital government transformation. Otherwise, it’s another waste of time and resources, implementing inconsistent elements.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and cultural transformation consultancy. He is Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the De La Salle University MBA program. The author can be emailed to [email protected]
Learn more about #FINEXPhils via www.finex.org.ph.
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